Before I launch into this review I want to share a little anecdote: I had just finished reading The Green Shore by Natalie Bakopoulous (who emailed me just the other day!) and was looking for something a little lighter. I try to alternate my literary fiction with some "chick-lit" or easy reads, just to give my brain a break. I had stock-piled many books downloaded on my Kindle for free and was excited to dive into the selection. I started and stopped FIVE DIFFERENT BOOKS before stumbling upon Dead is the New Black. The other five books, of which I won't name, were so terrible I couldn't read more than one chapter. The ending was obvious, the writing was poor, and the cliche's were endless. I wanted some light reading, not bad writing! Anyway, when I started Dead is the New Black, my hopes weren't high, but I found myself in for a nice surprise. I kept reading.
Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice is a great story that combines the fashion industry with a kicky murder mystery all set in The Big Apple. Laura, the novel's protagonist, is a pattern-maker for Jeremy St. James, a fashion mogul (whom in all respects, is gay). She worships the ground Jeremy walks on knowing there is no way he'll ever return her affection; love is blind. And, much to Laura's delight, she is the only member of Jeremy's staff that he doesn't treat like scum beneath his feet. It has something to do with her immense talent as a pattern-maker. I didn't even know what this was until I read this book. A pattern-maker takes the design and perfects it on paper and then recreates it on a mannequin until it is absolute. Apparently, this is a career that takes a lot of skill and is quite literally the backbone of major designers entire lives. Who knew? I guess it's always the "little people" that make the biggest difference in most situations.
One morning, as Laura is arriving extra early at the office so she can have coffee with Jeremy and no one else, things take a nasty turn. Her coffee is spilled over her desk, the place is in disarray, and Jeremy St. James is standing over Gracie, his financial baker, holding a piece of material that was used to strangle her. OOPS! A dead body, and of course, an important person being literally over-shadowed by another important person. Jeremy St. James looks as guilty as O.J. Simpson (we all know he did it!), but Laura just can't believe the man she loves would do something like this. Thus begins her quest to prove the man she most admires innocent of the murder charge that sends him to jail.
Demaio-Rice tells a great story. The characters are fleshed-out and realistic. She throws in just enough twists and turns to steer you away from the killer's identity, and although I figured it out long before the end of the book, I kept reading for two reasons: 1) It was well written and a good story. 2) I had to be sure I was right.
The book is fully of witty writing with lines that made me laugh out loud: "You were supposed to take off the label when you got home. Those people were just too stupid." Seriously, how many times do you want to say this to someone?
I learned a lot about the fashion industry in this book, too. There is so much work that goes into a runway show, more than you could even imagine. I have a newfound respect for people that work in the garment industry.
Dead is the New Black is a book I'd recommend others to read. While it falls predominately into the "chick-lit" category, it has enough grit to be a great detective story, too. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars, and the only reason I pull back to 3 is because I thought the killer was a bit obvious; but that's just me. I look forward to other books by this author.
Christine Deamaio-Rice has worked in the fashion industry for 20+ years. She is a graduate of the USC Screen Writing program, but has decided novels are her genre. I look forward to other books by her; if I understand what I'm reading correctly, this book is the first in a series.
I love this picture of the author, too. The main character, Laura, is obsessed with getting her scissors back throughout the entire book. A quirky, fun little detail.